How Many Hours to Meditate
To start with, you can meditate for half an hour in the morning from 4 to 4.30 and for half an hour at night from 8 to 8.30. Morning time is best for meditation. The mind is refreshed after sound sleep. Further, Sattva predominates in the system as in the surrounding atmosphere. In the Yoga Vasishtha, Sri Vasishtha says, "O Rama, give mind for meditation in the beginning; mind for recreation; mind for study; mind for service of Guru. Then mind for meditation; mind for recreation; mind for study; mind for service of Guru." Here recreation means acts like washing, cleaning, etc. It does not mean golf play or rugby. This recreation is meant for relaxation of mind or diversion of mind after concentration and meditation. Otherwise the mind feels tired and refuses to work. Then give mind for meditation; mind for study. Increase the time of meditation gradually. After two months, increase the period to one hour, 4 to 5 a.m. and 8 to 9 p.m. After a year, increase the time to 1 hours in the morning and 1 hours at night. In the third year two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening; in the fourth year three hours in the morning and three hours at night. This is for the vast majority of persons. An earnest Sadhaka with strong vitality and subtle intellect can meditate for six hours in the first year of his Sadhana. You must study congenial books as the Upanishads, the Yoga Vasishtha, the Gita, Viveka Chudamani, Avadhuta Gita along with meditation. Such study is very elevating. Six hours' study and six hours' meditation is very beneficial. This will eventually push you on to Nididhyasana for twenty-four hours.
Three Sittings for Meditation
At the commencement, have two sittings only, one in the morning from 4 to 5 a.m., one at night from 6 to 8 p.m. After six months or one year, according to your mental calibre you can have three sittings, a third in the afternoon from 4 to 5 p.m. You can increase the period of concentration to two hours at each sitting. In summer, it is rather irksome and difficult owing to perspiration. So, have only two sittings during summer. The loss can be made up in winter. Winter is very favourable for meditation. You will find Rishikesh, Muni-ki-reti, admirably suitable for contemplative purposes. Winter and early part of spring are the best seasons for beginners to commence meditation. In winter the mind is not tired at all. You can meditate even for 24 hours without the least exhaustion. That is the reason why Sadhus select Rishikesh for meditation in winter. The period of meditation should be gradually increased with caution. The meditation should not be by fits and starts. It should be well-regulated and steady. You must always use your commonsense and reason throughout the Sadhana period. You should ascend the summit of Yoga gradually, slowly, stage by stage and step by step. You must not give up the practice even for a few days.
Meditation for one hour in the morning and for one hour in the evening must be practised by all to start with. The hours of practice must be gradually increased. Another important point is that the Brahmic feeling must be kept up all the twenty four hours. There must be an unceasing continuous flow of consciousness. You must not forget the idea of "Aham Brahma Asmi" or the Divine presence even for a single second. Forgetfulness of God is genuine death. It is real suicide. It is Atmadroha. This is the highest sin.